April 29, 2023

Little Michelin flowers of spring

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Three weeks after our last visit - with another trip to Japan in between - we are back at Godenya (ごでんや). I usually make sure I book at least 2 visits around this time of year, in order to catch the season for those tiny little sansho flowers. This time, though, we are lucky to be here just 3 days after the restaurant earned its very first Michelin star. So I brought along a gift that I felt would be appreciated by Goshima-san.

Tonight's menu looks remarkably like the one from a few weeks ago, but I didn't mind that at all. I loved the dishes from last time and wouldn't mind having them again and again...

Sakura-masu, ark shell, wasabi-stem, warabi, sansyo-leaf (桜鱒  赤貝  花山葵  蕨生  木の芽) - the flavors from the wasabi stems definitely stood out among the rest, and I do love how the dish has the combination of mashed sansho leaves (木の芽), fresh sansho leaves, and sansho flowers (花山椒).

April 27, 2023

Celebration bubblies and sticks

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I was still at lunch in Macau when RAW Yeah pinged me. Would I be interested in joining supper at Hidden (秀殿) tonight with the Man in White T-shirt? Well... after continuously stuffing my face over the last day or so, I really should take it easy tonight and stay home. I declined the invitation.

Then I got to thinking... why not treat this as a celebration for the Man in White T-shirt? After all, Neighborhood just got their first macaron yesterday... and surely that is something worth celebrating! I messaged RAW Yeah and told him I would be happy to join. Besides, it's been so long since I went to Hidden for supper, just like we did in the old days.

Mr. White T had already been there for an hour by the time I arrived, having mixed up our starting time. I would also meet a couple of new friends tonight, one of whom turned out to be my kohai (後輩) from high school in Tokyo.

Fried chicken wing (手羽唐揚げ) - YES! It is de rigueur to kick off a meal here with one (well, at least one) of these chicken wings. Mr. White T let slip that he did, at one time, get the recipe for this and ended up serving it at Neighborhood. Somehow I don't remember ever tasting that.

An afternoon in the garden

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My morning started with a late breakfast. I should have had this breakfast earlier, but erroneous information online put the opening times of Sei Kee Cafe (世紀咖啡快餐) in Nam Van (南灣) at 90 minutes later than when it actually opened.

I'm here for one thing - egg and luncheon meat on toast (午餐肉厚蛋多士). Having tasted this beautiful sandwich with its thick slab of luncheon meat along with a thick yet fluffy omelette, I just had to come back for it at the first chance I got. Who cares if lunch is in 90 minutes?!

And I still liked the clay pot coffee (燒瓦煲咖啡).

April 26, 2023

Michelin HK / Macau 2023: my 2 cents

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It has been many, many years since I last wrote a post to comment on the Rubberman and the annual award of the macarons. I used to point out what I considered to be "anomalies" in the first few editions, but got tired of it. After all, I'm a nobody and who gives a shit about what I think when the mighty Red Guide has been in existence for over 100 years?!

As I attended the announcement in person this year for the first time, instead of watching a livestream or waiting for the PR blurb after the fact, things felt a little different. A few restaurants and their chefs, with whom I have a deeper connection, have received what I and many others felt were long-overdue recognitions. I figured I would add my two cents' worth.

The biggest news of the day was undoubtedly the elevation of a restaurant to the pantheon of 3 macarons. This is a big deal. Looking at Rubberman's website, there are just 140 restaurants in the world which holds the distinction. So it's a very, very exclusive club.

Michelin HK / Macau 2023: buffet, gala, and supper

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After holding the revelation events online for the last few years during the pandemic, the Michelin Guide is once again making the announcements for the Hong Kong and Macau Red Guide in person. The title sponsor for this year has changed to the Grand Lisboa Palace Resort Macau, which has very kindly made all the arrangements for us. I got up bright and early this morning and headed to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal to catch the ferry to Macau.

But first, traditions are traditions. I stopped by McDonald's at the terminal to buy breakfast for my ferry ride. Sausage McMuffin is just what I needed.

April 24, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 10: the last Samurai

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My last day in Japan was spent on a mission for mom. She had called a few days ago asking me to look for dried spiny sea cucumbers, and I had dutifully looked around in Fukuoka without success. Goh-san had told me that they don't see much of it in Japan, and even my friend whose family operates Chinese restaurants in Japan tells me that most of the supply is shipped to buyers in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, I needed to check things out for myself.

I had gotten word from a family friend that a particular shop in Tsukiji Outer Market (築地場外市場) used to sell it, so I made my way over to the market this morning. The whole place was now bustling with tourists from all over the world, which must be good news to the shops. I went through all the dried goods shops at the market and asked every single one of them, and in the end found 4 shops which were still selling dried sea cucumbers.

I have zero experience buying this stuff, but I did send Foursheets to look around a few shops in Hong Kong a few days ago... so I have an idea of how much the stuff might cost. There are only 4 shops which were still selling them: 深谷水産, 江戸屋海産, 丸二商店, and ヤマカ. In the end I ended up buying small amounts from 3 different shops, with varying quality and pricing. Let's see how they compare to Hong Kong...

Edoya (江戸屋海産) - they had what I thought were the best-looking ones, but the pricing was much more expensive than the others. I ended up buying a small plastic tub with 200g, which had 16 pieces inside. What I didn't realize was that they stuffed 6 (out of 16) inferior ones in the middle of the tub so that it was difficult to see outside. These barely had any spikes on them, and definitely would have been cheaper on their own. I feel cheated and won't buy from them again.

Maruni (丸二商店) - these looked pretty nice. I bought a pack of 200g with 16 pieces.

Yamaka (ヤマカ) - recommended by a family friend. This was the cheapest and they had a decent amount of stock. I bought 200g with 17 pieces.

I went to the market too late and stayed too long, so I rushed back and grabbed myself some takeout from McDonald's nearest to the pad. Samurai Mac (サムライマック) was on offer and I got myself a Roasted soy sauce double thick beef (炙り醤油風 ダブル肉厚ビーフ). That was pretty satisfying, but I had to literally wolf it down in less than 5 minutes so I could pack my luggage and rush to Haneda Airport.

April 23, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 9: chicks on sticks

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One type of cuisine that has been glaringly missing from my diet over the last few years has been yakitori (焼鳥). Other than the occasional visit to Yardbird where we order up a couple of sticks among a wave of non-chicken dishes, Foursheets' general distaste for chicken - and especially offal - have precluded me from having lots of delicious sticks.

I'm alone for a few days on this leg of the trip, and I have a free slot for dinner tonight, so I got myself a booking at Yakitori Shinohara (焼鳥  篠原) - a place ranked among the top 20 for yakitori in Tokyo. They are known for using the famous Takasaka chicken (高坂鶏) from Kobe. For the second seating at 8:30 p.m., the majority of diners were foreign tourists...

Takasaka chicken soup with wonton (高坂鶏のワンタンスープ) - the soup was very light, with just a little seasoning.

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 9: the best damn tonkatsu

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Even though I had another late night, I couldn't sleep in this morning as I needed to get up and go for an early lunch. This meal was, in fact, the reason I extended my stay in Japan and came to Tokyo after Fukuoka.

Tonkatsu Narikura (とんかつ成蔵)
has been on my radar for a few years now, ever since I heard about their special tonkatsu (とんかつ) millefeuille. But I was focusing more on fine dining establishments during subsequent visits to Tokyo, so this place was never on my hit list. Until now. I decided I needed to see what the hubbub was all about. After failing to book a slot for my short visit last month, I finally got myself a seat this morning, at 10:30 a.m. So I hauled my ass all the way to Minami-asagaya (南阿佐ヶ谷) for my brunch...

April 22, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 8: Selosse at Saito

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I'm back at Sushi Saito (鮨さいとう) a few weeks after my last visit. For my fourth visit here I have the privilege of coming to dinner for the first time, and thanks to the generosity of the Dining Austrian, I have the pleasure of bringing Cow and Chicken along. It was, after all, their 20th wedding anniversary just 2 days ago... and I was very glad to be able to treat them to a very special experience they normally wouldn't have access to.

Once again my friend had the entire counter, and our threesome were seated at one end of it while Mr. Big(time) was at the opposite end. That made for a trick conversation...

As usual we started with the otsumami (おつまみ) part of our meal:

Japanese glass shrimp (白海老) - no sea urchin like last time, but happy enough with the little shrimps on their own.

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 8: exploring Yanaka

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I'm spending the day with two old classmates from high school. While I love to tell people that "I went through puberty in Tokyo at an all boys school," the old friends I'm meeting up with are from my second stint in Singapore. Both are Japanese who eventually found their way back to Japan, and I haven't seen one of them for 35 years! I'm especially grateful since one of them is coming into Tokyo from her home in Chiba...

I know nothing about Yanaka (谷中) and how it's been slowly gentrified recently, so I thought nothng of it when I was asked to meet my friends at the JR station in Nippori (日暮里). I had briefly looked at the link my friend sent me about our lunch spot - Sun Potter Cafe Nonbiriya (散ポタカフェ のんびりや) - but nothing about it struck me.

April 21, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 7: old school sushi

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I'm meeting the Dining Austrian for dinner tonight. We would all be dining at Harutaka (青空) for the first time. Taisho (大将) Takahashi Harutaka (高橋青空) spent more than a decade working for Jiro (yes, THAT Jiro) before setting up his own shop, so the obvious comparison would be with Jiro jii-chan.

The restaurant is in a building right next to the JR train tracks near Shinbashi Station, and while I was seated in the private room waiting for the others to arrive, I could hear the trains roaring by pretty clearly.

This was also the first time I'm meeting Mr. Big(time) - who is another member of our Super Secret Foodie Group - after years of occasionally tracking his movements. This was gonna be fun!

Right off the bat, Takahashi-san was already doing something different from his master. He started us off with a series of otsumami (おつまみ), which isn't part of the meal at Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし 次郎).

Splendid alfonsino (金目鯛) - torched and served with grated radish, which was pretty acidic thanks to the amount of ponzu (ポン酢) used.

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 7: neighborhood yoshoku

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I woke up much too early this morning, especially given I had gone to bed very late and for a second night in a row. I had no plans today until dinner, so I greeted my hosts and hung out at home after they all left for their busy daily routines.

I didn't have to go out to get breakfast, since I have this onigiri (おにぎり) made with the leftover rice from last night's dinner at Tempura Motoyoshi (天ぷら 元吉). This was pretty tasty and made me happy.

April 20, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 6: drunken onion, episode 9

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We went straight from dinner to Tamanegiya (酒たまねぎや), where Fergie had been waiting for us for about an hour. Thankfully Master was happy to entertain him in our absence and ply him with sake...

Master offers us a selection of shio kombu (塩昆布) to go with our drinks.

He was clearly in a good mood today, and started to show us some of the plates he uses for otsumami (おつまみ). He bought these from the flea markets decades ago for next to nothing, but they are more than 100 years old.

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 6: another last-minute foodie call

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I was walking with Cow to find ourselves a place for a simple dinner when my phone rang.

"Peter, how are you? You are well?"
"Are you dressed, or are you in your underwear?"
"We had a last-minute cancellation... Do you think you can come to dinner in 24 minutes?"

I've received a similar call from the Dining Austrian before, more than 4 years ago. On that occasion I had a little more than 1 hour to get to lunch. This was bordering on the ridiculous. I apologized to my old friend for having to suddenly ditch her, and hopped into a taxi. Yes, OF COURSE I was a few minutes late when I showed up at Tempura Motoyoshi (天ぷら  元吉) and settled into the last seat at the end of the counter. And food came very quickly.

Chicken grunt (伊佐木) - with scallion sprouts (芽葱) and slightly spicy grated radish (おろし).

Prawn legs (車海老のあし)

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 6: 2 more ramen

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Just as we were leaving Shuho (酒峰) to go out for some ramen (I had successfully persuaded Rydo to have ramen instead of standing sushi), Goh-san pinged us and told us that he was finally leaving the restaurant. He was supposed to have joined us for our sake session but had stayed behind to spend time with some Korean KOL. He would meet us on the street.

As we were close to the hotel, I suggested to the group that we hit Men-chan Ramen (めんちゃんラーメン). It's not particularly famous or anything, but it's where I witnessed a gyoza battle between the Dining Austrian and his son during my first trip to Fukuoka. It's tasty enough, and we could stagger back to our hotels without much difficulty afterwards. Luckily for us, there happened to be 6 seats available at the counter when we arrived.

Ramen with spring onions (ねぎラーメン) - I chose to get the bowl with tons of extra diced spring onions.

April 19, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 5: hanging with Vlad

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Foursheets left early this morning on a business trip, so I'm hanging out on my own today. Once again I'm having breakfast in my hotel room, trying out the two packs of Amaou (あまおう) strawberries I bought outside a Lawson in Kokura (小倉) yesterday. They were fairly cheap and, therefore, not so great in terms of quality. Oh well.

Since the boss of Hakata Daruma (博多だるま) came to dinner last night, Vlad and I decided to go try out their ramen. It's only a short walk from my hotel, and we were there on a weekday so the wait was pretty short - only 10 minutes or so.

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 5: sukiya dinner

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Dinner tonight was at Chisou Nakamura (馳走 なかむら), a well-respected kaiseki (懐石料理) restaurant whose taisho (大将) had trained in Nara. We were fortunate enough to park ourselves at the 7-seat counter so as to watch chef Nakamura Akira (中村 亨) in action.

I was so, so happy to see a written menu. I used to think that written menus were standard at kaiseki restaurants, but that just shows me how little I know... This was hand-written in calligraphy by the okami-san (女将さん).

April 18, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 4: Goh(Gan)

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The reason why we are back in Japan, and in Fukuoka in parsticular, just a few weeks after our last trip was to come to dinner tonight. Gaggan had mentioned to me in Singapore that they are doing GohGan again this month, but the dates were only finalized a couple of weeks ago. Gaggan asked us to come a couple of days early so we can hang out together.

When Foursheets and I came to Fukuoka last month, we chose to dine at Goh because we wanted to try Goh-san's cuisine. We also chose to not dine at GohGan since we knew we would return one day for a proper GohGan collaboration. So here we are tonight.

But Gaggan did not come. There's a family emergency the likes of which takes priority over everything else in life. And all of us told him over the last 2 days that he shouldn't come, so in the end he didn't board his scheduled flight. His absence would be explained to the diners, and they would understand. Well... in his absence at least we can pose for a selfie with this puppet, which cost Goh-san an arm and a leg to custom make.

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 4: Kokuramae-style

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On our third morning in Fukuoka, we decided to take a break from having French breakfasts so I could enjoy another tamago sando (たまごサンド) from a convenience store. These days it's my favorite breakfast while in Japan.

I decided to take us out of Fukuoka city for lunch. We haven't had any sushi so far in Fukuoka this year, and I wanted to try a sushiya that serves it Kyushumae (九州前) or Kokuramae (小倉前)-style. As this trip only materialized a few weeks ago, nagging a seat at Tenzushi Kyomachiten (天寿し京町店) was simply out of the question. I settled instead for Sushi Tsubasa (寿司つばさ), which is well-regarded and earned themselves a macaron in the last published edition of the red guide for the region.

A trip from Hakata Station (博多駅) to Kokura Station (小倉駅) in Kitakyushu (北九州) takes only 15 minutes on Shinkansen, and from there it's a short stroll to the restaurant with just 8 seats at the counter. It's been more than 3 years since I was lucky enough to get my first experience of Kokuramae-style sushi at Tenzushi Kyomachiten, and I was looking forward to trying this. Chef Otan Tsubasa (黄丹翼) trained at Sushi Morita (寿司 もり田), whose master trained at the original Tenzushi (天寿し) run by the elder Amano (天野) brother.

Yuba tofu with purple sea urchin (湯葉豆腐  紫雲丹) - the sauce was starchy and thick. The yuba (湯葉) was nice and fluffy.

April 17, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 3: flaming tangerine

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After resting a little in our hotel room, we walked over to Warayaki Mikan (藁焼 みかん) to meet up with the boys for dinner. Vlad has been to the restaurant a few years ago when they were at their old location, and they are obviously good friends with Goh-san, judging by the place cards on the counter where they had reserved seats for us.

As Goh-san was still busy with tonight's service and wouldn't join us till halfway through dinner, we tried to negotiate upfront with the boss to let us pay for the meal. Unfortunately our offer was rebuffed, as we were told that Goh-san had already pre-paid for the dinner. This was, of course, a lie... but we were in no position to argue. The only thing we could do was to refrain from ordering expensive alcohol...

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 3: another day, another park

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Another morning, and another trip to C'est Très Bon for breakfast. We did not realize, though, that this bakery doesn't open till 10 a.m. Neither does Tully's Coffee. So we had to get Foursheets' caffeine fix at Starbucks... which is just as well since the coffee at C'est Très Bon is pretty crap.

While Foursheets had her croque monsieur, I decided to try the French dog (フレンチドッグ), with bechamel, mustard seeds and cheese. Pretty nice, but I think the croque monsieur is still better.

April 16, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 2: boys are back in town

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We had read about C'est Très Bon from a guidebook that Foursheets bought, which piqued our interest because it's in Canal City Hakata just steps from our hotel. So we trudged over to take a look and see what we could get for breakfast. Their most popular item is apparently the petit milk baguette, which is a small baguette sliced open and filled with some sweet milk cream. Pretty nice, actually... as the sweetness worked with the light saltiness of the bread.

April 15, 2023

Japan Michelin tour 2023 day 1: Kyoto in Fukuoka

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Less than a month after we took our first trip to Japan in more than 3 years, we're back... and again starting in Fukuoka. We're here to hang out with some friends and, of course, to eat our way through the city. The weather is a little warmer this time around so we have slightly less luggage...

The first thing I did after checking into the Grand Hyatt Fukuoka was hitting the Family Mart just across the street. Needed to get my fried chicken fix! I decided to get the aromatic chicken with burnt soy sauce flavor (香ばしチキン 焦がし醤油風味) to try it out.

April 14, 2023

Casual night with some bar food

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Foursheets was having drinks with a friend and somehow ended up at Caprice Bar. She didn't think she would finish a whole bottle of wine with her friend, so she asked me to join them. It's the night before we fly off on another trip, and we had wanted to take things easy with some casual eats. After some initial confusion, we finally settled on a bottle of German riesling that would suit Foursheets' palate.

2020 Karl Haidle Stettener Pulvermächer Riesling Großes Gewächs - very flinty with lots of toast, fragrant and nice nose with fruity notes. A little grippy on the palate with good acidity.

April 12, 2023

KA.RA.A.GE. in the U.Z.A.

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For some time now I have been THAT ASSHOLE who kept asking for deep-fried dishes - especially fried chicken - every time I went to Nikushou. To the point where no visit to the restaurant would be without some fried chicken, despite the item not being on the menu. Then RAW Yeah decided to do a pop-up for a concept called UZA by Nikushou, which was him testing the waters for his new concept. That project ended up taking a lot longer than expected, but tonight I was finally able to sit down at the new UZA for our first dinner.

Pickles (漬物) - a little surprised to start with these, but we've got Japanese yam (山芋), mustard greens, garlic, and burdock (牛蒡).

April 7, 2023

Itty bitty little flowers of spring

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‘Tis the season for those tiny little sansho flowers (花山椒) again, and that means I’m back at Godenya (ごでんや) for a little taste. Since one has to book seats at the restaurant a few months in advance, one is never really sure whether one is lucky enough to hit the short window when the flowers are actually in season. Thankfully Goshima-san just received his first supply a few days ago.

We were joined at the counter tonight by Salad and g4gary, and it really has been a while since I last sat at the counter here. I’ve kinda gotten into the habit of booking the private room, and that means missing out on some interaction with Goshima-san.

Monkfish liver, ark shell, wasabi-stem, warabi, sansyo-leaf (鮟肝  赤貝  花山葵  蕨生  木の芽) - I really love having this dish at this time every year, as it's just so pretty. The ball is covered in a sweet and sour miso made with sansho leaves (木の芽), then garnished with fresh sansho leaves, bracken fern (蕨), wasabi stem (花山葵), and of course the little sansho flowers that I get all excited about.

April 1, 2023

The dinner after dinner

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I've been trying to catch up with Hairy Legs for a while, and totally missed the chance to have a few drinks with him for him birthday last week. As I stayed away from the parties in Singapore earlier this week, that also meant I didn't run into him there. So... here I was, sitting at home after having a very light dinner that Foursheets cooked us. Hairy Legs pinged me and asked me if I wanted to head over to have a few drinks. So... as dinner service was winding down, I found myself at Caprice.

We started with a little cheese, with the usual suspects like Comté and Mimolette.


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